Monthly Archives: January 2011

How to deal with the NHS

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Have you tried these ways to get seen when you need medical attention?

Dealing with the NHS can be time wasting (ours) and sometimes non-productive (for patients).

The following points have been sent in by readers, who have found ways of getting round NHS admin, and been given  better service.

Hopefully one or two points might make a difference when you are being shuffled around.

Can’t get seen because Appointments office say referral fax hasn’t been received from your GP?
Tell them to go and switch over Fax machine from Photocopy mode to Fax mode.
Recently Chelsea and Westminster Hospital swore they hadn’t received a faxed referall letter which was urgent.  After three abortive phone calls, with GP’s surgery swearing they had sent fax through, I got through to Manager of the section.  He trotted down corridor, and came back to tell me he had found fax.

It had been sent, but was stuck in machine because this was turned to PHOTOCOPY mode.  What is worrying is that in last day or so no-one had bothered to find out why the department wasn’t getting any referral letters.

Need a longer consultation with your Doctor?
You have the right to ask the receptionist booking you an appointment with your GP to give you a double appointment;  i.e. 20 minutes instead of 10 minutes
Or pay to go privately – most private doctors work on 30 minute appointment slots

Can’t get an urgent appointment for tests/scans/MRI procedures?
At Charing Cross Hospital they are experimenting with opening the department at weekends.    Considering the capital cost of the machinery, it is criminal that these departments shut down from early on Friday until Monday morning.  In USA machines work “24/7” as hospitals are private, and owners won’t have expensive equipment lying idle.  But NHS doesn’t seem to worry about cost of these.

  • So ask why your local hospital’s Imaging Dept. isn’t open at weekends?
  • And make a phone call the the Foundation Office – the one that is always trying to get you to sign up so they can tell Dept. Health they have X thousand patients on their register.  Ask them why Imaging Dept isn’t open at weekends except for urgent cases?

Can’t face the long journey to hospital for chemo treatment?
If faced with chemo, and you don’t want the long journey to the treatment centre, or would rather have one-to-one attention from a nurse who stays with you during the whole process, ask your Consultant to refer you to Healthcare at Home.  This company is now rolling out teams of professional nurses across UK, who come to your home to administer chemo, visit you at home to take bloods samples, and send a driver before your treatment with all the drugs you need for that day.  MRSA of course, is far less likely.  Of Consultants who recommend this service to their patients, 100% said they were in favour.

What can women do to stay well?
One of best doctors I know says he always listens to his female patients – they know their own body best.  So if you feel something’s wrong:

  • Get to know your body – understand what’s normal for you and what you should do if things aren’t ‘normal’
  • Take charge of you body: take regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, give up smoking
  • Checks: examine your body and act on any unexplained and unexpected changes – don’t wait – go and see your GP.  Whether this is irregular bleeding, lumps and bumps, changes in skin or bowel habits – sometimes these things will just point to a benign condition that can be easily cured – it is better to be safe than sorry
  • Understand what screening options are open to you and take them up
  • Find Wellbeing of Women’s easy-to-read information booklet on gynaecological cancers by emailing or calling 020 7772 6400. A copy of the booklet, ‘Your Guide to Gynaecological Cancers’ can also be downloaded from the website
  • To find out more or to become a Friend of Wellbeing of Women visit

Have to go to A & E?  But don’t want the wait?
Don’t be British and ‘stiff-upper-lip’. Call an Ambulance, don’t get someone to drive you.

If you arrive by Ambulance you are seen almost immediately and jump the queue.  Last time I had to go to A & E,  I had been deliberately knocked off my bike by a woman who drove off.  This happened right in front of our local hospital, and nurses came out to help.  One of them said she was calling an ambulance, but like a fool I said it would be quicker if she would help me hobble the ten yards.  I ended up waiting four hours before being seen, and was in deep shock by the time I got to top of queue.

If all else fails
Try and get an appointment with a vet!  Animals are seen straight away – no mention of waiting times!

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Surveys do make a difference

Help Charities to help you

Politics rules today’s health services, both in UK and abroad.

And to ensure that patients get the best treatment, charities will often set up a survey – particularly easy today with Internet connections.  These surveys are used to provide backing when approaching politicians to get changes moving for patients’ benefit.

When a politician sees numbers, that is something their brain understands.  So never underestimate the benefits of those little numbers.  They may not mean anything to you, but to a politician they are something they can quote and use to add emphasis to their speeches.

The next thought that comes into their minds is “potential votes for me”.  So they listen – and act.

So spending five minutes clicking through and completing a survey might not take you very long, but the more cancer survivors that take time the more evidence charities have when working on our behalf.  And add to the impact.  So please complete surveys below, and when this is done press FORWARD and send emails to as many friends as possible.

1.  First Survey – help Breakthrough Breast Cancer

2.  LINks

Last month I receive an email from Andrew Lansley’s office (known as La La Lansley land).

It said LINks ( local patient committees that actually have the power to question NHS hospitals etc). saved the NHS    £126 million last year.  In next para. it said that La La had decided to abolish them, and start up a ‘new’ group called Healthwatch.

  • First protest came from charity whose name they had pinched without asking.
  • Second protest came from Patients’ Association who say that new body will be ‘governed’ by NHS, so won’t be independent.

Now I get it.  La La’s minions don’t like the fact that LINks have questioned very unsavoury practices, and actually got things done for patients’ benefit.

Patients’ Association wants to know what YOU think about LINks – first of all, have you ever heard about them?  etc. etc.

So please fill in their short survey:

Scotland flag

Take action this National Election

Add your voice to Breakthrough’s Scottish Election Campaign to put breast cancer high on the national agenda.

Elections take place in Scotland in May 2011. This year you’ll have the chance to ask your Parliamentary Candidates to sign up to Breakthrough’s election pledges.

You’ll also be able to speak out and ask politicians about the issues that matter to you in a “question time” style debate we’ll be hosting in March. Watch this space for more information about how you can get involved.

Shape the Scottish Breast Screening Programme

The Scottish Government are currently reviewing the breast screening programme in Scotland. You’ll have the chance to secure improvements by letting us know what you think about the current service in the coming months.

Find out more at a CAN involvement day

We’re holding a CAN involvement day in Edinburgh in February. Come along to share your experiences and find out how you can make a difference to breast cancer services and treatments in Scotland.

Contact us

Find out more about any of these upcoming opportunities by registering your interest today by emailing Janis:

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Is this why our cancer statistics are so bad?

...of course, this was prior to the actual zap...
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Thousands of cancer patients are not being given most successful treatments

BBC reports radiotherapists claim too few people are getting radiotherapy because GPs and the public see drugs and surgery as better options.

They warn this could explain why the UK has lower cancer survival rates

Estimates say 52% of all cancer patients in the UK should receive radiotherapy, but actual figures are:

  • England and Wales 38% of patients get radiotherapy
  • Northern Ireland  35%
  • Scotland 43%

Experts say that suggests approximately 30,000 cancer patients are not getting what they would consider the best treatment.

What is radiotherapy?

It is a treatment for cancer using radiation, usually X-rays, to damage the DNA in cells. Healthy cells can repair the damage. Rapidly dividing cancerous cells cannot, so they die.

Dr Jane Barnett, president of the Royal College of Radiologists, says “radiotherapy is still a magic bullet.”  Especially now with the use of computer imagery.

Why is it under-used?

Money.  Professionals admit anti-cancer drugs, backed by the pharmaceutical industry, were better promoted than radiotherapy.

Dr Barnett said GPs were also poorly informed about the subject: “Radiotherapy plays a very small part in a doctor’s training, unless you’re going to be a clinical oncologist, compared with drugs and surgery which play a part in many fields.”

The National Radiotherapy Awareness Initiative is trying to improve radiotherapy’s reputation, saying radiotherapy cures more people than chemotherapy, is 13 times more cost effective and is targeted to within millimetres.

Professor Tim Maughan, oncologist at the Velindre Hospital in Cardiff, criticised the government’s decision to set up a cancer drugs fund worth £200m a year.

He said: “It’s the wrong decision. I don’t understand how we can chose to spend money on drugs which have not been deemed cost effect by NICE (the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence).

Professor Mike Richards, national clinical director for cancer, says “The recently published national cancer strategy clearly recognises the role of radiotherapy and commits additional funding.”  So why so coy?

What’s to come?

New technologies, such as Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), are more effective at targeting the radiation at the tumour, minimising damage to nearby tissues and reducing side effects.

But UK lags behind Europe:

approx. 20% of European patients have access to IMRT

approx 7% have access in UK

One reason could be NHS’s lack of proper administration.

A radiotherapy unit uses very expensive – but cost-effective – machinery.

  • In private sector these units run for a minimum 12 hours per day.
  • Most NHS units are still governed by old-fashioned administration, and run 8 hours a day.

One of the newest forms of treatment, proton beam therapy, fires particles at a tumour rather than using radiation waves.

If you think this might benefit you, DEMAND to be sent to Europe for treatment;  patients are being funded by NHS to go abroad – but NHS is keeping quiet.  Natch.

Make sure if radiotherapy could help, that you demand to be given a course.

And call La La Lansley’s bluff – he keeps on spouting mantra that we lag behind Europe, so use his words to get best treatment for yourself – abroad if need be.

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Cancer Post Code lottery makes my blood boil

First Minister Alex Salmond
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Scottish cancer drugs fund urged

News has just come up with story that Scotland should consider a cancer drugs fund, to help patients pay for treatment that is only available south of the border.

And I begin to wonder – do I live in the UNITED Kingdom – or in some dog-in-the-manger state that grabs benefits for some people whilst denying them to others?

Annabel Goldie has said cancer sufferers in Scotland are being “denied access to a range of drugs that can prolong life for some patients”.

The Rarer Cancers Foundation has published a list of at least 18 drugs that are available in England and not in Scotland.
Now, Scottish Conservatives have proposed setting up a Scottish cancer drugs fund to help patients in Scotland get these same drugs.

So First Minister Alex Salmond called on Ms Goldie to acknowledge that the Scottish Medicines Consortium, the body that ensures value for money in medicines procurement, is “a very robust system”.

He said: “It has been widely admired but it has very difficult decisions to make, because obviously resources are constrained in the health service, even though it has been protected by this administration.”

Well, having sat on committees where faceless people decide on QOLIs (quality of life outcomes), in other words, will they authorise money to be released to pay for a life-extending drug,  I know the decision is often NO.

Salmond excuses their decisions by saying “these decisions are made in the best interests of patients, but inevitably in any decision to authorise drug use there is always a resource issue as well. The balance of effectiveness against resources is always a difficult decision.”   And having sat opposite a great many of these decision-makers, I breathed a silent prayer that they never had my life in their hands.

But fear not, Mr Salmond has said “the Health Secretary is always prepared to discuss ideas and concepts that can improve the situation, and will meet with Ms Goldie to discuss her ideas”.

It is time for all good people to kick the Post Code lottery out of the system.  If you are British, you deserve to be treated equally, whether you live in the Channel Islands or the Outer Hebrides.  Didn’t we fight a war so that we could all remain equal?

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Cancer patient wins compensation for discrimination

Police Service of Northern Ireland
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Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) pay inspector £55k over post-cancer discrimination

A PSNI Inspector who complained she suffered discrimination after her treatment for cancer, has been paid £55,000 in a settlement made without admission of liability by the PSNI.

According to the BBC, Hazel Brady was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.

Mrs Brady complained of discriminatory treatment on her return to work in January 2008 and said she felt the PSNI failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate her medical condition.

She said she felt that undue demands were made of her in terms of her workload which did not take her health into account, after further investigative cancer-related surgery, and that she was faced with unfounded criticism of her work.

Inspector Brady described her experience as an “extremely stressful time. I was very shocked, saddened and disappointed that the treatment I received during the two and a half years after my return to work made an already difficult situation much worse for me.

She also alleged that she was denied training opportunities available to her male colleagues.

After she lodged complaints about these issues both she and her husband complained that they were victimised by the bringing against them of allegations of misconduct, which subsequently were not progressed;  her husband also was given compensation.

She also alleged that she herself was victimised by the way in which her sickness absence for cancer-related surgery was managed.

The PSNI also confirmed that, as with all officers, account will be taken of her health and any disability when decisions are made as to what functions she will be required to fulfil and where she will be stationed.

Eileen Lavery of the Equality Commission said no-one in ill health should have to confront additional difficulties.

Everyone involved hopes that other officers and PSNI staff with a disability will be treated better by the organisation in future.

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Cancer survivor wins major literary prize

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25:  Author Jo Shapc...
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Jo Shapcott wins prize with her poetry

She survived breast cancer – then went on to beat five other major contenders to win the overall Book of the Year prize in the prestigious Costa Book of the Year competition.

Her poetry, described as “candid and dark”, draws on her recent battle with cancer.  She was treated at Hereford County Hospital, and thanks her ‘team’  that treated her, in the acknowledgements in her book  ‘Of Mutability‘.

She said the work was written when she was recovering from breast cancer, although the disease is not mentioned explicitly. However, the opening lines

Too many of the best cells in my body

are itching, feeling jagged, turning raw

will strike a chord with many cancer survivors.

A judging panel chaired by broadcaster Andrew Neil awarded the prize, second only to the Man Booker in terms of literary merit, to the 57-year-old English poet at a ceremony in London.

The award recognised Shapcott’s 2010 work Of Mutability, which tackles deeply personal themes such as cell deterioration and death, and beat the bookies’ favourite, Edmund de Waal’s The Hare With Amber Eyes.

And the prize?  Apart from the honour and the glory, Shapcott receives a cheque for £30,000.  Adterwards she said she was “accepting it on behalf of poetry”.   And added, “I was shocked … I really wasn’t thinking this was possible, especially since poetry won last year.”

The Book of the Year prize, worth £30,000, recognises the overall winner from the Costas’ five individual categories: biography, children’s literature, novel, first novel and poetry. These were won by De Waal, Jason Wallace, Maggie O’Farrell, Kishwar Desai and Shapcott respectively, with category winners being announced in a separate ceremony earlier this year.

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Does the Coalition have any idea what NHS reforms to put in place?

Cameron has tossed a bombshell into the NHS

reform ring, without any clear-cut idea of what

the Coalition’s reform strategy is going to achieve.

There has been lots of talk about the need to save money,

but anyone trawling through NHS reform proposals will find glaring examples of where these are actually going to cost money.

Negotiating the slippery NHS reforms

Delivering his ideas for NHS reform to the House of Commons, Cameron was questioned  by Ed Milliband:

“Patients want to know something ………. how long will they have to wait for treatment?”

All Cameron could come up with was  “We want to see waiting times and waiting lists come down”.

No promises of definite action there, just a wishy-washy half-hearted phrase that meant nothing.

Cameron’s advisors must have seen this question coming – so why no robust response?  Only his ineffectual reply, and anyone who follows Whitehall-speak knows this means ‘we haven’t a clue’.  Which rather sums up all the proposals, jaw jaw, counter-proposals and rhetoric that is coming out after the White Paper proposals.

Then, if you looked and listened carefully, came the bombshell.  Instead of listing what was going to be saved, and possible savings, there was a statement that the overall costs of the reforms is estimated at £1.4 billion.

Now tell me if I am wrong, but I thought the idea was to SAVE money – not to spend it?

We all know the NHS needs radical reform, and last May almost everyone agreed.  But for a party that has had 13 years in opposition to come up with a thoughtful solution to the NHS’s problems, all I can think of is Cameron’s team were playing on their Blackberries without any thought about what they were actually going to do when they came to power.

GPs rule

With the average GP’s earning £106,000 p.a. (Telegraph), the public are fast losing their affection for them.  Once, everyone would praise the family doctor; today – how many actually have a ‘family doctor’ ?  Most of us have become used to being seen under a lottery system, and may never have seen the doctor with whom we have a ten-minute appointment.

Under the new system, we are going to have to cram even more questions into our woefully-brief alloted time, whilst the GP juggles figures over cost of treatment we will need.  Perhaps we will even be fobbed off with ‘wait and see’, when we want to get on and find out what is wrong with us.  Currently it is bad enough waiting for tests – what is going to happen when GPs have decided on how much they are going to spend each month on ‘commissioning’ tests and other services – and the budget has been spent?

And already this is happening.  Last month I needed the all-important referral letter to get to see a certain Consultant over my problems with drug side effects.  I had been to see the ‘expert’ at our local hospital, whose knowledge of drug side effects wouldn’t even have covered a pin-head.  Presumably the NHS Practice would have already commissioned my appointment with this ‘expert’.

I am sitting in GP’s surgery, talking to a locum doctor whom I had never met before, who tries to tell me the ‘expert’ I saw is “a marvellous dermatologist”.  I point to the proof in a letter sitting in my file, but still he tries and tries to get me to go back to see this bully – was this because a repeat visit wouldn’t take up any more of the surgery’s budget?

Eventually I just sat there until I got my ‘Patient Choice’, but how many people would have given in?  Obviously it would have been cheaper for me to go back to the original ‘expert’ consultant than go to another hospital, further away, to see the person I wanted to see.


Politicians love to talk about the ‘Broad Picture’.  But the public doesn’t want that, they want to know when they need something, it is easy to access.  But get down to basics, get those right, and the rest will follow.  As an example, they could start with the Appointments Line, and if this worked it would save a huge amount of money:

  • A letter arrives from The Appointments Line with no details – just saying it is a reminder for you to book.  Now, if you are a cancer patient you probably have lots of different appointments, and you rack your brain trying to find out which one you might have missed,  or did you turn up and the system didn’t mark you down?  So you waste yours, and the hospital’s time, phoning around to find what it’s all about
  • Then, to make the appointment you have to give a Password, but with Locums in our surgery, they don’t issue these
  • Then you are told to phone an 0345 number.  Now, over a year ago the Dept. Health were made to promise that they were going to get rid of the expensive 0870 and 0845 numbers.  Sneakily, they now give you an 0345 number which is just as expensive, but how many know this?   Every O345 number HAS to have an 01 or 02 ‘basic’ number.  These don’t cost anything to access under many telephone deals, so why does the NHS insist on using an expensive (to the patient)  0345 number?

I don’t know if I hold the record, but recently I received 14 letters about an appointment.  6 cancelled my appointment, 8 confirmed the date and time.   If that isn’t wasting money which the NHS could save….!!!

Local Clinics

And there are plans to set up ‘local’ clinics – but where is money coming from if NHS needs to save?  As Michael commented yesterday, “I don’t want all this talk by doctors of setting up clinics locally.  If I am having anything done, I want this carried out in a hospital environment, so that if something goes wrong, help is there”.

Where is Patient Centred Care?

The Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust (IDDT) questions whether ‘Patients Really Are At The ‘Centre Of Care’  after asking Andrew Lansley, for his help.

In June IDDT highlighted the effect that withdrawal of a certain insulin and injection device would have on 90,000 patients; the pressure that only 6 months’ notice would put on NHS staff,  increased costs etc.  What happened?  Jenny Hirst, Co-Chair of IDDT comments, “We were surprised that Mr Lansley’s response showed so little understanding of the effect that this withdrawal would have on patients and on the NHS. He showed an unwillingness to take any action on behalf of patients, especially the most vulnerable groups – those with visual impairment and manual dexterity problems who, as a result of this withdrawal would lose the injection device that enabled them to self-inject and maintain their independence.”

Even the cautious King’s Fund are unhappy, considering the reform proposals were a good move but warning that changes were at risk from “a combination of the funding squeezer and the speed and scale of reforms”.

Cameron doesn’t seem to have learnt much – in 2009 he damned Dan Hannan, the MEP who had spoken out on Fox TV in the USA about the troubles facing the NHS (America was voting on going over to a similar system).  Then Cameron was saying the NHS was fine.  It has taken him just over a year to do an about turn – but now he is Prime Minister it is time to stop the politics and get on and govern.

And next time any of the Government needs A &E, would they please do a ‘Mary Portas’, put on a wig, and go as a ‘mystery shopper’?  They would see a very different side to the NHS than the super-duper ‘come this way’ VIP care they are given “because of security”.

Where is Matron?

Oh dear, common sense seems to have long gone when it comes to managing a hospital.  So many people are saying, “bring back Matron”.  She’d know how to put Lansley and all the policiticans in their place, would know exactly how much ‘her’ hospital was being over-charged by private contractors for second-rate service, would sack the paper-pushing Administrators, and  ‘get things done’ rather that write another report.

If anyone wants someone to carry a banner asking for the return of Matron – I’d love to help!!

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Record donation is good news for cancer patients

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer ...
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Everything is always bigger in Texas!

MD Anderson Cancer Center announces $150 Million gift for cancer research – one of largest ever.

Eventually this massive donation could provide very good news for every cancer patient, across the world.

~The Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation is granting $150 million to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to support genetic-analysis based research, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.  This is for what is being called ‘personalised medicine’, and will mean that horrendous side effects will be curtailed, as oncologists will be able to give each patient a test to see which drug will be best for their individual needs.

H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of the Foundation, and Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., Chancellor of The University of Texas System, recently witnessed the ceremonial signing.

Signed by Ahmed Juma Al Za’abi, Deputy Chairman of the Foundation, and John Mendelsohn, M.D., president of UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, the agreement calls for establishing the Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care at MD Anderson.

The grant also will fund three distinguished university chairs named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan for oncology, the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for medical or scientific discipline dedicated to cancer research and the Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for scientific and medical knowledge in cancer research.  The grant will also fund a group of fellowships every year.

So what’s in it for YOU?

As they say, the mission of MD Anderson Cancer Center is to eliminate cancer in Texas, the nation, and the world through outstanding programs that integrate patient care, research and prevention, and through education for undergraduate and graduate students, trainees, professionals, employees and the public.

The money will allow the Center to build a vast (600,000 square-foot) facility to house an  Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy and a centre for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Speaking to my surgeon today, he told me that personalised cancer therapy is the dream for cancer treatment for everyone.  Eventually it is hoped that every patient would have drugs and treatment based on their needs, rather than what is prescribed generally for the ‘average’ patient.  This should see far fewer side effects, and more targeted treatment.

And for too long Pancreatic Cancer (the one that Patrick Swayze suffered from), has been the Cinderella of cancers.  A very nasty form of the disease, this has long been overlooked as money for research went into the ‘popular’ cancers such as breast cancer, and Pancreatic cancer research was way under-funded.  Now, this grant will hopefully enable survival rates for this type of cancer to impove.

MD Anderson, as a treatment centre,  were incredibly helpful to me during treatment.  Whenever I sent them a question, they would send back a helpful answer.  I wasn’t a patient of theirs, but every time I asked something,  almost immediately back  came a considered and helpful response.

On this website I constantly quote from their website, or from information that I have been sent, and this generous sharing of information bodes well for us all in the future, especially as Cigarroa said the grant will impact the speed with which discoveries can occur and cures can be found.

Giant grant

Mendelsohn described the grant as the largest in the history of MD Anderson.  He added that this will ultimately enable MD Anderson to offer a new level of personalized treatment to the more than 30,000 patients seen each year.

If I lived near by – I would be offering to help with building this exciting centre!

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Will Health and Social Care Bill be Cameron's Poll Tax moment?

NHS logo
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The government is to publish details of the biggest planned overhaul of the NHS in England

Having fought the election on a platform to reform the NHS, the coalition Government seems on course to upset even those who acknowledge ‘something must be done’ about our health services.

The Health and Social Care Bill, which will be laid before Parliament later, paves the way for GPs to get control of most of the NHS budget by 2013.

Unions warn the plans could undermine the health service, while MPs say they have taken the NHS by “surprise”.

But having set out their stall, Cameron, Lansley and everyone at the Dept. Health argue that changes will improve services.

Unless you get these officials away from their office, and as one admitted to me last week,  “we are very unhappy”.

NHS overspend

Anyone who runs a business looks around their NHS hospital and almost certainly notices where NHS money is being wasted.  But instead of throwing out good and bad systems together willy nilly, in a massive nationwide reorganisation schedule, why on earth don’t Hospitals consult their patients who bother to sign up for ‘Foundation Trust Membership’, and ask them where cuts could be made?

The way the change is going to happen now is already providing concern amongst staff = worried about their jobs = less attention to patients whilst they wonder if they are going to have a job soon.

If you are waiting to see your GP, or for tests, or even for an operation, reports from all over country are saying that  waiting lists are getting longer.

And the  NHS Confederation warns that hospitals could go bust as the plans include opening up the NHS to “any willing provider”.

The BBC quotes Dr Helena McKeown, a GP based in Wiltshire, describing herself as a sceptic. She believes one danger is that consortia may decide that some of the more marginal services are not a priority for funding. “Patients could see local bunion services go, for example, or orthodontics.”

She is absolutely right – I have already been told this by my local NHS GP’s surgery in central London.

She also fears local hospitals could be hit as private sector providers look to win more NHS contracts. She gives the example of ophthalmology departments which rely on cataract operations as a vital source of income and an area for eye surgeons to gain experience for more complex work.

“Private firms will want the cataracts as they are less risky and less complex, but the consequence of that is the local hospital department could suffer.

Again – I have to have regular eye tests with dye drops.  As I also have an eye ulcer, I need anaesthetic drops first.  The company that has just taken over this service (previously run very efficiently by Sally – a senior nurse) ‘forgot’ to include anaesthetic drops in their costings.  Result is I have to have test done by doctor – what extra cost is that?

Business Experience
Critics have also questioned whether GPs have the experience and skills to handle such huge budgets – about 80% of the NHS budget.

Ministers point out that more than 140 groups of GPs have put themselves forward for the pilots.  In the words of a certain ‘lady’,  “they would, wouldn’t they?”   There is obviously money to be made there.

And Peter Carter, of the Royal College of Nursing, says:  “This reform programme could come off the rails, as people concentrate on saving money rather than delivering quality care.”

This is simple economics :  whenever you change a system, in an office, a business or a service such as the NHS, this costs money.

Sometimes it has to be done – and sometimes it is done on the principle “we’re going to change this, so let’s do everything at once”.  Currently, that seems to be the way things are going in the NHS.
Politician Diane Abbott suggestsa regulator: OFSICK perhaps?

Crazy idea to help Cameron when he puts his foot in it

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 29JAN10 - David Cameron, Le...
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Cameron calls NHS ‘second rate’ and rouses NHS ire

But I have a crazy idea

His remarks came during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, when he said, “‘I don’t think we should put up with a second rate – with coming second best,’ he quickly correcting himself.   ‘We should aim to be the best.’
He didn’t seem to be saying this about staff, but about NHS facilities. But immediately unions, staff and others were up in arms.
When describing hospital facilities, I would have thought second rate was about right.  When the World Health Organisation repeatedly issues statistics showing how far we lag behind other countries, things aren’t too good in our health service.  Most people would say with the impact the White Paper is already having on our local NHS services, we can see them going down already.

The media tried to stir up comments, saying David Cameron faced an embarrassing political row after branding the NHS ‘second rate’.   But general comment focused more on ‘so what were Cameron, Lansley and Government doing so that the NHS could honestly say it is the best?’   Silence.

And that’s what is worrying.

Constantly the Coalition Govermnet produces speeches about the NHS, in which the fact we lag behind the rest of the world is mentioned  – again and again and again.

But no-one has even one smidgen of comment about what we could copy from the rest of the world to drag our health service into the 21st century.  When one asks the massive Dept. Health’s press office who is tasked with highlighting what we can copy from Europe – again Silence.

Here comes my crazy idea

Which I reckon it is just about as sensible as all the other gubbins that is currently coming out around the White Paper –

~encourage NHS staff going on holiday abroad to take an extra day off to go round a local hospital and see what is actually being done there~.

The deal could be staff are given an extra day’s paid holiday – in return for which they have to spend a day shadowing their opposite number in a hospital.  It could be in one of the superb Alpine medical centres – or even in a country such as Romania, where their health budget is a fraction of ours, so the staff have to be extremely creative in how they spend resources, copying how they save money.

And when staff return, they have to deliver a report to their next staff meeting.

When I talk to NHS staff about what is going on in other countries medical-wise, I get the feeling that staff don’t connect with what Lansley and Cameron are saying.  Most have never been inside a European hospital, so have no idea what conditions are like. 

Whenever Cameron and Lansley talk about better services abroad, I have the feeling that 99% of NHS staff haven’t an idea what they are going on about.  ‘Abroad’ is seen as foreign, other world, nothing to do with them.

When I bought back a load of clinical trials paperwork (in English)  and sample products from the French hospital where I had fled to be treated, when a top professor tried to tell me body-covering bloody skin lesions were “due to your age”, the London cancer hospital where I was being treated weren’t the slightest bit interested, or even curious. 

Very, very sad – but this habit of denying anything because it isn’t British is failing patients.  And I felt sorry for fellow patients who had been told the same nonsense about ‘age’ as me, but hadn’t been a fortunate as I was to have my cancer drug side effects treated efficiently in the French health system.

NHS Staff

Most people would say that although their local hospital might leave a lot to be desired, on the whole the NHS staff are  doing a cracking job under difficult conditions.

And the FT comments that “with the NHS, however, Mr Cameron has somehow got both the public policy and the politics badly wrong. He seems set at once on throwing the health service into needless turmoil and validating all those popular suspicions about his party’s long-term intentions”.

You only have to read the letter published in The Times  to see how NHS leaders, from doctors, nurses, unions etc., are calling for caution in Lansley’s lemming-like approach to reform

And instead of taking one of those expensive ministerial cars, next time Cameron should hail a London taxi and talk to the driver.  Their drivers are the best political barometer I know;  long before the results of the last election, every driver I talked to was accurately predicting the Tories would NOT gain the landslide they were expecting.

Today, most taxi drivers have a bolt-hole abroad – ask them what treatment is like when they turn up in A & E overseas – and you really hear about the difference in what UK puts up with compared to Europe.

So please, Cameron, Lansley etc.  STOP telling us UK lags behind Europe, and do something practical.  So that we can have this superior treatment you admit costs the same as the billions we throw at the NHS for ‘second rate’ care.

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